How Does YouTube Count Views? We Break It Down

How Does YouTube Count Views? We Break It Down

It’s a Thursday at 4:00 PM, and the most popular video on YouTube is a 20-minute interview with Idris Elba answering tough questions while eating spicy wings. If you’re familiar with Hot Ones, “The show with hot questions and even hotter wings,” it might not be shocking to know that this video has close to 4 million views.

That’s right, spicy wings have the capacity to earn millions of views in less than a week on YouTube. Where do those views come from? What exactly counts as a ‘view’ and what doesn’t? For those who are curious, or if you’re a marketer looking to expand strategy onto a platform with nearly 2 billion monthly viewers, YouTube has the answer.

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Breaking Down the ‘View’ Thing

YouTube hasn’t always been the most obvious choice for marketers. Sure, there are guides and explanations, even statistics on how to crack the YouTube code. Yet, there’s still uncertainty about what does and does not count as a view in 2019. For a site that’s no stranger to regular changes, what’s the baseline?

What counts as a view on YouTube in 2019?

YouTube describes a view as, ‘a viewer-initiated intended play of a YouTube video that’s been despammed.’ In other words, a video without viruses that is selected and watched by one computer.

When a video gets despammed, it’s scanned for potential malware viruses and security threats from hackers. Any threats are removed during the screening process.

So, wait. If there’s no secret formula to what counts as a view, can’t anyone refresh their video to gain views? Not anymore. In the early days of YouTube, monetization wasn’t a thing. It was an assumption that almost every view fit into the original definition: a viewer-intended play of a virus-free video. It didn’t take the platform long to get wise to the fact creators could cheat the system. This is loosely referred to as an “artificial” view.

Luckily, YouTube has gotten pretty good at spotting artificial views. Some of the signs they look for include:

  • Views, reloaded – This is the classic case of a single user refreshing the video to bring those numbers up.
  • Viruses – If a video looks like malware–software designed to harm your computer, server, or network, it gets deleted.
  • Website autoplay – If the video is set up to autoplay on a website, that doesn’t count as a view.

Software in YouTube’s security system has the ability to detect malware – a computer program that assists in sending spam messages from your computer – and spambots. YouTube automatically deletes them to make the screening process go more smoothly.

More than that, there’s a magic number of views: 300.

Once a video reaches 300 views, the fun begins. YouTube puts a hard stop on counting views. Its system begins to track incoming views as well as the first 300. It can delete fraudulent views as they’re identified. Once the initial screening process is over, the view counter goes back to normal, but YouTube will continue monitoring for fake views on every video.

Why 300? Numbers below that don’t have the power to crowd the YouTube homepage and throw the website off its algorithm. The algorithm of YouTube is a powerful thing to mess up.

The Rhythm of Algorithms

If publishers fail to follow YouTubes guidelines, videos will be deleted. Viewership has its own set of guidelines and is taken very seriously. One reason for this is if a video reaches a certain number of views and falls within the guidelines, it’s eligible to make money.

YouTube’s account monetization allows a single video to earn thousands of dollars as it creeps into the territory of having millions of views. Accounts that give themselves fake views are, in essence, making money unfairly. YouTube’s policies here aim to make sure every creator works hard on every video they produce.

That said, algorithms change – sometimes at the drop of a hat. For the most updated information on proper video protocol, review YouTube’s guidelines regularly, especially when they announce changes for creators.

Another reason viewership is taken so seriously is user ability to find videos they’re interested in. It would be soul-crushing to sift through tons of spam videos in order to get to that one your colleague suggested about how to edit videos.

All this talk of algorithms and homepages may seem a little overwhelming, when the main question is actually, “How do I use this stuff to get views?” Don’t worry, as long as you optimize videos for search, you’ll find ways to get people clicking on your content.

It can be a bit tricky to decipher the mechanics of YouTube. But YouTube uses a system that carefully and cleverly monitors viewership so it can deliver the most authentic experience to its creators and users.

By counting views the moment fake views can turn into a real problem, YouTube nips potential problems in the bud. For more information on using YouTube as a marketing tool, check out our ultimate guide.


Originally published Aug 21, 2019 7:00:00 AM, updated August 21 2019

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